In researching portrait photography, I came across Richard Avedon. I had seen his fashion shots before, but had no idea how deeply emotional and raw some of his work is. I am speaking specifically of the collection from “In the American West”. This collection of portraits is not flattering in the typical sense: the daily lives of people living in sometimes less than ideal situations are portrayed in stark black and white images. The white background places the emphasis of the image strictly on the subject and his or her expression. The collection does not feature photos of smiling and excited individuals, but rather sullen, static faces engrossed in a somber stare.

Avedon is able to tell the story of each individual without using words: the pictures show the viewer only the essential details of the person’s life, yet these details are enough to deduct the individual’s personality and parts of his or her daily routine. The lack of makeup, costume and background allow the viewer to emotionally connect with the subject because each subject is portrayed naturally: the photo represents real life rather than a fabricated studio scene.

Advertisements